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Representation and Inequality in Late Nineteenth-Century America
The Politics of Apportionment


  • Date Published: February 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107498358

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About the Authors
  • This book demonstrates that apportionment, although long overlooked by scholars, dominated state politics in late nineteenth-century America, setting the boundaries not only for legislative districts but for the nature of representative democracy. The book examines the fierce struggles over apportionment in the Midwest, where a distinctive constitutional and electoral context shaped their course with momentous consequences. As the major parties alternated in effectively disenfranchising their opponents through gerrymanders, growing tensions challenged established patterns of political behaviour and precipitated intense and even dangerous disputes. Unprecedented judicial intervention overturned gerrymanders in stunning decisions that electrified the public but intensified rather than resolved political conflict and uncertainty. Ultimately, America's political ideal of representative democracy was frustrated by its own political institutions, including the courts, because their decisions against gerrymandering in the 1890s helped parties and legislatures entrench the practice as a basic and profoundly undemocratic feature of American politics in the twentieth century.

    • This is the first book which examines the practice and significance of political apportionment and redistricting in state politics before the court-led 'reapportionment revolution' began in the 1960s
    • Demonstrates that apportionment was central to American politics in the late nineteenth century, perhaps more so than many of the other issues scholars have traditionally emphasized
    • Shows that in important ways America's political institutions impeded rather than implemented its political ideals
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This marvelous book will be a standard work for scholars interested in election law and representative government, and it should force a rethinking of the tumultuous politics of the 1890s.' Paula Baker, Journal of American History

    'Peter Argersinger offers a powerful narrative, fortified by impeccable research, to show that, even though the battleground has changed, the wars politicians have fought to choose their voters have been going on for far longer than much contemporary scholarship acknowledges. Overall, Representation and Inequality in Nineteenth-Century America is an important and interesting read. The book is well-researched, well-written, and manages to make a topic as potentially dry as historical apportionment procedures into a compelling read … political scientists will take away a great deal from this book, [and] it could easily be read and appreciated by a much larger audience. It would be a valuable addition to any undergraduate or graduate level elections course syllabus.' Chad Murphy, Congress and the Presidency

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107498358
    • length: 352 pages
    • dimensions: 233 x 155 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.57kg
    • contains: 12 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. 'Injustices and inequities': the politics of apportionment, 1870–89
    2. 'One irrevocable duty': democrats and reapportionment, 1889–93
    3. 'The time has come to make a precedent': Wisconsin, 1891–2
    4. 'Fought out in the courts': Michigan, 1891–2
    5. 'Partisanship has run riot': Indiana, 1892–4
    6. 'An ineradicable vice': Wisconsin, 1893–6
    7. 'The consequences of their own folly': Indiana, 1894–8
    8. 'A state of uncertainty': Illinois, 1893–8
    9. 'Our system of representative government': from chaos to control

  • Author

    Peter H. Argersinger, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
    Peter H. Argersinger holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. From 1971 to 1998, he was a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and he held the distinguished position of Presidential Research Professor from 1995 to 1998. Since 1998, he has been a professor at Southern Illinois University, where he was named Outstanding Scholar by the College of Liberal Arts. He has also been a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC, received an Andrew Mellon Fellowship from the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Helm Research Fellowship from Indiana University and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Historical Association. He has received the Binkley–Stephenson Award of the Organization of American Historians for the best article published in the Journal of American History. His work has appeared in the American Historical Review, the Political Science Quarterly, the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, American Nineteenth-Century History, Agricultural History, the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and other journals. He is the author of six books including Populism and Politics (1974); Structure, Process, and Party (1991); and The Limits of Agrarian Radicalism (1995).

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